Best Base Layer For Hunting Tested And Reviewed(2023)


What To Look For When Buying Hunting Base Layers

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Wool Or Synthetic?

Merino Wool

Merino wool is an ideal fabric choice for a hunting base layer. It’s a natural material (if it’s good enough for sheep…), so its ability to regulate temperature is unparalleled. In other words, it keeps you warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot. Because the whitetail deer hunting season is in the fall, you often have to deal with cold mornings but warm afternoons, so this is essential.

As an added bonus, Merino wool is naturally odor resistant. Deer can smell better than they can see, so that’s a big plus.


On the other hand, synthetic materials like polyester and nylon have certain strengths. Biggest of all is probably just the price. They’re a lot less expensive.

They’re also lightweight and quick-drying, so while they might not be quite as warm as Merino wool, they can be easier for layering when it comes to base layers.

One thing that is important to mention here is that cotton is the wrong choice for hunting clothes. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about socks, base layers or pants. You should never use cotton next to your skin while hunting.

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Lightweight, Midweight or Heavyweight?


A base layer labeled as “lightweight” is a good choice if you hunt in milder climates such as those in the Deep South or bow hunting during the early season. They’re designed to be breathable and wick away moisture, which means that if you move around and get hot, you’ll still be comfortable. Similarly, they’re thinner, so you can put several other layers on top and then take them off when the temperature rises.

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Base layers defined as “midweight” are best-of-both-worlds garments, or at least they try to be. They usually have more warmth than lightweight layers, but they still provide easy layering.

We recommend midweight base layers for hunters who deal with drastic temperature changes. This is actually true for a lot of deer hunters since deer hunting season is in the fall when nights are cold but days are hot. This is especially true in the Midwest.


When the mercury really drops, you want a heavyweight base layer. They’re designed to trap in your body heat and keep you warm even in extra cold weather, often below freezing. This is best for late-season deer hunting in December and January and in northern states in particular. a heavyweight base layer can be particularly effective at keeping you warm when paired with a good set of hunting bibs.


Naturally, your budget is going to play a factor when it comes to base layers. We recommend considering how important a base layer is to your hunt before determining your budget. If you’re a bowhunter who’s regularly in the tree stand during the late season, especially in a cold climate, you need a high-performing base layer made of the best materials. However, if you just need one to keep in your closet in case of a cold snap, you can save some change.

After that, keep in mind that you generally get what you pay for when it comes to base layers. Quality materials like Merino wool and extra features like odor control can drive up prices, but they also give you an edge while hunting.

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Also keep in mind that a high quality base layer will last for years if cared for and stored properly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I wear as a base layer in hunting?

Your hunting base layer should be warm but thin, like the Redhead E.C.W.C.S Military Fleece Thermal Base Layer. The idea is to provide an initial point of insulation to trap your body heat while still allowing you to add other layers on top.

What is the best base layer for upland hunting?

Since upland hunting involves a lot more walking and movement than deer hunting, you want a layer that’s warm but still breathable and moisture wicking like the Cabela’s Instinct Merino Wool Base Layer. This way you’re insulated and warm when you’re standing still, but you don’t overheat when you start moving.

What is the best base layer for extreme cold weather?

In extreme cold weather, you need a base layer like the Under Armour ColdGear Base 4.0 Base Layer or the E.C.W.C.S Military Fleece Thermal Base Layer. In other words, you need something that has intense insulation without preventing you from adding even more insulation over it. At the end of the day, extreme cold weather requires numerous layers.

Are base layers warmer than thermals?

Thermals, or thermal underwear, are a type of base layer, and the terms are often used interchangeably. However, hunting-specific base layers are generally thicker and warmer than simple thermals.

What is the warmest material for hunting?

Merino wool is considered by many, including the staff of Deer Hunting Guide, to be the warmest material for hunting. It provides great insulation along with the natural breathability, moisture wicking and odor control.

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That said, modern technology has improved a lot, and synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon can be quite warm. This is especially true if they feature advanced designs like micro-grids.

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Final Thoughts

Most hunters need a base layer, especially if they hunt the late season when temperatures drop. Our top recommendation is the Redhead E.C.W.C.S Military Fleece Thermal Base Layer thanks to its high insulation, comfortable fit and easy layering. If you’re looking for Merino wool, we also love the Ibex Woolies Base Layer. These are the hunting base layers used the most by the team.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>